Does Blackberry’s open letter have a return address?

Tomorrow, Blackberry will release a letter to media outletss worldwide. When I got news of this tonight, I stumbled mentally for a moment. I thought it reminiscent of the There is life after Apple” Chiat/Day letter from Steve Jobs in the Wall Street Journal 25 years ago. For a minute I allowed techno-romance to gnaw at me, but only for a minute. Tomorrow’s open missal from Blackberry reminds me more of a fake letter that appeared in Chinese newspaper, The Southern Metropolis Daily a couple of months ago, and then found it’s way around China via the micro-blogging Weibo. It was a clever viral marketing contrivance by a cosmetics company pitched as a letter from a (one assumes) wealthy mistress (turned wife) advising her rival in love that she just hasn’t got the looks to win back her/their man. “…a good man only belongs to a woman who can make herself beautiful…”. 

“To our valued customers, partners and fans, You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry. You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day. We have one important message for you: You can continue to count on BlackBerry.”

— Blackberry open letter, October 15 2013

 There’s a feeble pun here on glossing over the foibles of the cosmetic industry and their play on vanity, beauty and desirability – so I will gloss over it, and back to Blackberry. Like the cosmetics industry this letter from Blackberry promises much, declaring they are the best in class: 1) productivity tool, 2) security, 3) enterprise mobility management and 4) mobile social network. I appreciate pride in your brand, pride in your work and commitment to your company’s success, but this is approaching delusional – we are in Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field territory here. Blackberry is far from being the most productive mobile device available, Android, iOS and Windows Mobile give more products, more flexibility and better implementations of productivity tools. If Blackberry think different (ahem, if only they would!), they haven’t browsed those respective OS stores recently. It is a secure platform – Citrix’s acquisition of Zenprise and Good upping their game, and significantly Good’s appointment of Christy Wyatt have changes the security outlook considerably – do Blackberry watch Bloomberg anymore? Best in class enterprise mobility management? Now, Blackberry, are talking some sense  at last. Lost in the negative hype of their last disappointing results was the fact that Blackberry Enterprise Server 10 sales were up almost a third. – remarkable for a company that’s in the state that Blackberry’s in. And their final point regarding best in class mobile social network isn’t so much delusional as just silly. Numerous vendors provide secure messaging now, if you’re not an iMessage on iOS user you have numerous choices on Android and iOS, Good Mobile Messaging and a multi-platform solution with companies like my favourite, Threema. That is of course, if you think a) you actually need secure messaging b) you’re willing to use a vendors product that may be within the PRISM program and c) if you don’t have a corporate infrastructure that effectively makes your application of choice secure by the nature of how and where you run it. Indeed, when Blackberry proclaim the attractiveness of this feature they might have thought of addressing the non-availability of Blackberry messaging on iOS and Android. “Working around the clock” they say – it’s be a great social network application if it wasn’t just on their platform.

These are no doubt challenging times for us and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges. We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry.     Blackberry open letter, October 15 2013

The technology-road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I don’t dispute Blackberry’s good intentions but it’s too late and they’ve fallen in to the trap of trading on their heritage. Their heritage is undeniably great; founded the same year the Macintosh was launched by Apple, Blackberry were the bar that everyone else had to measure up to. I used and loved a Blackberry for years and as An IT manager at the time, I subsequently ran my new iPhone in tandem slowly moving an entire business to a Microsoft platform that welcomed iOS and Android users, forced to embrace BYOD not by choice but simply because our wifi ground to a halt as I discovered every day a new user popping up on the network with a personal device. Blackberry stopped being a great company 6 years ago, but they do still make something great, that doesn’t fit in your pocket. Their Enterprise Server is an outstanding product and the sooner they stop making handsets the better. Blackberry’s future is as a software company, and I suspect not as an independent one.

If I wrote an open letter back to Blackberry tomorrow it’d be a short one, my advice simple: put on your make-up, put that phone back in your purse and get yourself downtown, it’s time you met some new people. Hey, I know this guy from Sunnyvale you’d really like…

External links & references

  1. Crackberry.com : Read the letter in full
  2. Blackberry previews new cloud service enterprise mobility management
  3. How Blackberry Fell : The New Yorker
  4. Good Technology : Collaboration Suite
  5. Microsoft address MDM with Intune


Andy O'Donoghue

Andy O'Donoghue talks about technology, some say, too much.